About the Consumer Protection Policy Center at the Centers for Public Interest Law
In today’s political landscape, much attention has been focused on issues of influence, transparency, and accountability in our federal government. But we cannot and must not overlook the ever-increasing influence of monied special interests occurring on a daily basis before state legislatures and regulatory agencies across the nation. In California, for example, according to the California secretary of state’s website, lobbyists outnumber state legislators nine to one. Meanwhile, the number of public interest advocates in Sacramento over the past 30 years has dramatically declined, along with the press corps. The result? The Consumer Protection Policy Center (CPPC) at the Centers for Public Interest Law (CPIL) often stands alone in Sacramento as a nonpartisan voice for the broad-based interests of the state’s marginalized and unorganized constituencies, such as the poor, consumers, the environment, and future generations. Now, more than ever, CPPC’s voice is needed to challenge the government to be responsive and accountable to the interests of the general public in all aspects of governmental decisionmaking.
Since 1980, CPIL has served as a respected, nonpartisan advocate in all three branches of California government. CPPC is a recognized expert on the study of an extremely powerful, yet often overlooked, level of government: state regulatory agencies. In fact, it is the only entity in California that closely monitors these agencies, which are charged with public protection but are often dominated by members of the very profession they regulate.
In recent years, as public interest advocates’ activity in Sacramento has dwindled, the legislature has called upon CPPC time and time again to testify on matters involving public protection and government transparency, including ex parte communications at the California Public Utilities Commission, transparency and governance reform measures at the State Bar of California, enforcement programs at the Medical Board of California, the strengthening of reporting requirements to the Contractors’ State License Board in the wake of the tragic Berkeley balcony collapse in 2015, and enhanced regulation of for-profit educational institutions. CPPC has also filed multiple amicus curiae briefs before the California Supreme Court to advocate on public protection matters, and it has prevailed in lawsuits filed to hold government agencies accountable for anticompetitive behavior.
In light of the North Carolina decision, CPPC and two other consumer groups have taken the lead in urging states to implement this historic decision. In California, CPPC has been at the forefront of North Carolina implementation – testifying before the legislature, and proposing a new regulatory framework to protect Californians against anticompetitive conduct by these boards, including increased public member representation on each board.
In addition to its advocacy program, CPPC has an academic component, training the next generation of public interest lawyers at the University of San Diego School of Law Centers for Public Interest Law, where CPPC law student interns study California agencies that regulate business, professions, and trades, and experience first-hand the influence special interests exert upon them. CPIL’s former students have gone on to become such community leaders as judges, city attorneys, legislators, consumer advocates, and public interest lawyers.